Artists' Historical Palettes:
Modern Art

by Margie Deeb
Modern art is excerpted from The Beader’s Color Palette
(Watson Guptill, June 2008)

From the late 19th century on, artists rebelled. They experimented with new materials and new ways of seeing. They examined and redefined the very function of art. We refer to “modern art” as the time when artists parted from representational art.

Movements came and went, centralized in various parts of Europe and America, many overlapping and blending. Each movement had its own ideas about color, its function, and how to use it.

Claude Monet and the Impressionists were obsessed with painting light and used lots of shimmering colors, side-by-side, to achieve fleeting visual sensations.

The four major Postimpressionists expanded upon impressionists’ ways, and developed their own singular style. Van Gogh and Seurat were fascinated with the act of painting itself, focusing on thick swabs of paint or many tiny dots of color. Like a scientist, Cezanne studied and tested color repeatedly to learn what he could of its power to give structure to form. Through color intensity alone, rather than light and dark, he achieved solidity and fullness of form. Gauguin began to free color from its constraints of copying nature, and used brilliant, unpredictable tones and combinations.

Suggested Palettes Inspired by Modern Art

Van Gogh Warmth. To simplify working with so many colors, think in terms of groups: the warm yellow oranges and the lavendars. Yellow-green (DB-372) stands alone as a lucious accent to be used judiciously and positioned carefully, where you want emphasis. Delicas: DB-651, DB-773, DB-781, DB-694, DB-799, DB-372, DB-160, DB-795

Degas’ Dancers. A gorgeous variation on the blue/orange complementary harmony loosely inspired by a Degas pastel drawing. All is gentle, soft, and muted except a minute and powerfully sharp accent of deep brown (DB-734). Delicas: DB-203, DB-208, DB-054, DB-067, DB-788, DB-792, DB-375, DB-734

Tropical Brights. Gauguin’s rebellious nature and love of brilliant color freed him from the Impressionists’ palettes of low contrast. He introduced colors from Oceania to modern art. I’ve omitted the black and flesh tones used in the painting (right) to focus on an array of brights. Use only a speck of blue, as he did for the girl’s collar. Delicas: DB-914, DB-744, DB-160, DB-232, DB-746, DB-919, DB-057

Robin Atkins found inspiration for “All That Jazz” in the profusion of color, line, and form of Wassily Kandinsky’s abstract compositions. Improvisational bead embroidery. Vintage pressed glass, blown glass dangles. Photo by Margie Deeb.

Both the necklace "Sea and Sky" and the embroidered pin "All That Jazz" are the creations of nationally known bead artist, teacher and author Robin Atkins. The Beader’s Color Palette is filled with her innovative bead art and extraordinary use of color. Visit Robin at

Artist, designer, musician, and color expert Margie Deeb is the first to author of several beading books about color, including the popular The Beader’s Guide to Color and The Beader’s Color Palette (June 2008, Watson-Guptill).

Her articles have appeared in "Bead & Button" and "Beadwork" magazines, and she writes a regular color column in "Step-by-Step Beads" and "BeadBugle.Com" She has appeared on the 2008 PBS show “Beads, Baubles, and Jewels” speaking about color. Visit Margie’s website for her books, patterns, jewelry, inspiration, and more: The Art of Color for Bead Artists.

Related Articles:

Ancient Egyptian Color
Margie Deeb discusses beading inspiration from ancient Egyptian color.

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